Alexander: Agreement Between President Trump and President Xi to Control Deadly Fentanyl Will Save Thousands of American Lives

Posted on December 6, 2018

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Click here for video of Sen. Alexander’s floor speech 

“What President Trump and President Xi announced this weekend is the single most important step that could be taken to stop the flow of deadly fentanyl from China to the United States.”

—Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2018 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “Out of all the news about the discussions that the President of the United States and the President of China had last weekend, one thing is certain: the agreement to schedule deadly fentanyl as a controlled substance will save thousands of American lives.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times stronger than opioid prescription pills and is the source of the greatest increase in opioid overdoses in our country. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, almost all the fentanyl coming to the United States is produced in China. The agreement reached between the United States and China makes the selling of fentanyl subject to the maximum penalty under Chinese law.

“Let me tell you one story about how we got here,” Alexander said in a speech delivered today on the Senate floor. “About four weeks ago, I led a senior delegation of five Senators and two Members of the House of Representatives, to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders.”

“At the urging of U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, we made fentanyl and the opioid crisis the primary point of our visit. President Trump had in an earlier meeting spoke with the Chinese president about this. China had already taken steps to stem the flow of fentanyl into our country by controlling 25 different substances of fentanyl. What we asked the Chinese officials, including the Premier, to do is to control all forms of fentanyl. Controlling all forms of fentanyl allows Chinese narcotics agents to go after anyone in China who uses or produces fentanyl illegally or improperly.”

“When we returned from China, I spoke about our trip on the Senate floor and said that China had the opportunity to become the global leader in stopping synthetic opioids. I talked with Ivanka Trump about our trip and encouraged her to get the White House to make this a priority and she understood that, if implemented properly, this would save lives and help thousands of Americans. I also urged President Trump to thank Chinese President Xi when they met at the G20 summit in Argentina, for what China has already done, and to ask the Chinese to continue working with us to stem the flow of fentanyl into the United States.”

“On Saturday, at the end of the G20 summit, President Trump and President Xi announced that China would do exactly as we asked: China will control all forms of fentanyl as a way of stopping the flow of this dangerous synthetic opioid into the United States both by mail and by smuggling through Mexico and Canada. President Trump called this ‘a game changer,’ and he deserves great credit for persuading China to make the selling of fentanyl subject to the maximum penalty under Chinese law.”

“To be clear, this is not a problem the Chinese government has caused, but it is something China is helping us solve. Working with our Drug Enforcement Agency and classifying 25 fentanyl compounds caused an immediate and dramatic decrease in those chemicals coming into the United States. And now, President Xi has agreed to control all forms of fentanyl, which will make it easier for China to go after anyone in their country who uses or produces fentanyl illegally or improperly.”

In October, President Trump signed opioid legislation sponsored by Senator Alexander that the President called, “the single largest bill to combat a drug crisis in the history of our country.”

The new law contains the STOP Act, to stop illegal drugs including fentanyl at the border and the SALTS Act, which closes a loophole that allowed manufacturers and sellers of synthetic opioids like fentanyl to avoid prosecution by labeling the opioids as “not intended for human consumption.”

Alexander concluded his floor speech: “What President Trump and President Xi announced this weekend is the single most important step that could be taken to stop the flow of deadly fentanyl from China to the United States. I want to thank Ambassador Branstad, for setting up the meetings we had with the Chinese officials. I am grateful to the Chinese leaders for listening to our Congressional delegation and for President Trump and President Xi’s leadership in taking this action.”

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Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.